Candidates race to get voters to polls

John McCain and Barack Obama uncorked massive get-out-the-vote operations in more than a dozen battleground states Sunday, with millions of telephone calls, mailings and door-knockings in a frenzied, fitting climax to a record-shattering $1 billion campaign.

In North Carolina, a once-reliable red state that is now tightly contested, the closing push to win the state may be the most intense in state history.

In the final hours before the election, Obama's ground campaign was culminating with an enormous door-by-door effort, using computer data to target undecided voters and supporters who vote infrequently. In Mecklenburg alone, hundreds of Democratic volunteers knocked on doors Sunday.

The McCain campaign was responding with the GOP's vaunted “72-hour program” of phone calls, canvassing and poll-watching, which proved decisive in the last two closely fought presidential elections. National Republicans are working harder to win North Carolina than they've had to in past elections, but they have history on their side. The last Democrat to capture the state's electoral votes was Jimmy Carter in 1976.

“We're calling like crazy and continuing to do that through (Monday) night,” said Lee Teague, chair of Mecklenburg's GOP party.

Teague estimates about 130 of the county's 195 precincts are organized. Party volunteers are focusing on those precincts without a chairperson. Volunteers are canvassing and making phone calls.

“We've got people walking in the door and saying, ‘I want to help,'” Teague said. “We give them a precinct list and tell them where to go.”

Local Democratic volunteers spent much of Sunday knocking on doors, making phone calls and circulating e-mails to spread the word about the Obama rally in Charlotte, said Joel Ford, chairman of Mecklenburg's Democratic party.

“We have live data we can look at to see who has not voted,” Ford said. “We have some canvassing efforts in subdivisions with large concentrations of people who have not voted yet. There are pockets all over the county.”

As the campaign closes, voters were being inundated with a crush of television ads and automated phone calls.

In a new TV ad, Obama highlighted Vice President Dick Cheney's support for McCain. The ad features Cheney, an extremely unpopular figure among the general public, at an event Saturday in Wyoming, saying: “I'm delighted to support John McCain.”

Not to be outdone, the Republican National Committee rolled out battleground phone calls that include Hillary Rodham Clinton's criticism of Obama during the Democratic primary. She is heard saying: “In the White House, there is no time for speeches and on-the-job training. Sen. McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, and Sen. Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002.” A Clinton spokeswoman said she disapproves of the ad.